Perfect Pitch, At The Tabard Theatre, is Quality Stuff
A welcome addition to the Bedford Park Festival writes Penny Flood
This smashing production of John Godber’s comedy about what can happen when posh meets vulgar is a welcome addition to the Bedford Park Festival. It's a comedy and it's very funny, but there's much more to it with a plot that twists and turns at every opportunity while exploring how people react when faced with difficult situations, and when truths that have been hidden for years bubble up to the surface as the alcohol flows. And it's not without its dark moments.
Smug, middle class, middle aged couple (Christina Balmer) and Ron (David Kitchen) have used his redundancy money to buy a caravan and they’ve pitched up at cliff edge site in Scarborough as a practice run for a trip to France.
Then, just as they are enjoying the peace and quiet they are joined by neighbours from hell in a filthy caravan: Grant (David Paisley) a 40 something, heavily tattooed, belching, farting, bull- terrier breeding, rabbit shooting slob and Stef (Christie Peto), his 20 something, chain smoking, scantily clad, none-too-bright, monosyllabic girlfriend. Grant is only interested in beer and sex and he has lots of both.
There are plenty of opportunities for laughs here, and Godber milks it for everything it’s worth as Ron ties himself in knots trying to erect the awning, and Stef confuses Gilbert & Sullivan with Gilbert O'Sullivan. And then there's Grant's amazing fart when Ron is far too polite to mention the smell.
Using some none too subtle emotional blackmail, Stef gets Yvonne to agree to go to a male strip tease show. They both get drunk and there's a hilarious scene where they tell the boys about the night. Super straight Ron isn't happy about his wife's behaviour, but just as he's beginning to calm down Stef lets something slip that should have remained a secret, and the plot twists again.
Godber's style is observational comedy, a form of humour based on the commonplace aspects of everyday life, which means it's going to have its ups and downs. This is where this play is clever, as the humour collides with some rather unsettling stuff, like Stef's black eye all the while delving deep into the characters’ personalities, finding cracks in the seemingly perfect smooth surfaces and discovering hidden depths in all four of them, even Grant.
The cast are brilliant, especially Paisley as the appalling Grant, and Peto who manages to portray Stef as a slightly sympathetic character. And it's full marks to Hazel Collinson the director whose tight control pulled the whole thing together. It's so easy to let a play like this, which abounds with sex and booze, go over the top and become farcical, minimising the serious elements, but she didn't let that happen.
There were a few empty seats when I was there which was a shame as it really deserves a bigger audience, it's quality stuff.
Perfect Pitch is at The Tabard until the 23 June which is only another week so get your skates on. Tickets are still available.
June 15, 2018